tv MSNBC News Live MSNBC March 13, 2011 10:00am-11:00am EDT
alarming new developments in sxwapan. a meltdown at one of the damaged moouk power plants and new numbers on how many people may have been exposed to radiation. then take a look at this. this is new amateur video that came into msnbc early this morning. it is from the moment the tsunami hit. these pictures are from myoko, japan. we'll look at fresh pictures from those that witness and stood right there capturing the tsunami as it enveloped their surroundings. these are pictures that are hard to believe, but you're seeing them, and they're the proof of it all. good morning. i'm alex witt, and this is msnbc sunday. we have three big developments to tell you about in japan. first, the country's top government spokesman says a partial meltdown is most likely underway. the nuclear power plant reactor, about 170 miles north of tokyo. three reactors at that plant
lost their cooling functions in the aftermath of an active earthquake and tsunami. meanwhile, massive vacs are underway for a 12 mile radius around those nuclear plants. more than 200,000 residents have been forced to leave their homes. one japanese official says nine people have already tested positive for high radiation levels on their skin and clothing. the number of dead continues to climb. officials say at least 1,200 people now have died. however, that number is expected to rise and potentially dramatically. we are getting new and dramatic images this morning from one of the hardest hit cities in japan. the city of sendai is completely unrecognizable after the tsunami. obliterated homes, buildings, cars, everything in its path. as survivors try to comprehend the damage around them, they're also desperately searching for their missing loved ones. nbc's ian williams is in sendai with the firsthand look at the disaster. good morning to you. >> good morning to you. it's difficult to grasp the sheer magnitude of this disaster
even after spending a day in one of the worst hit areas. the devastated port city of sendai. >> reporter: re t remains difficult to reach the worst affected areas so, we traveled adds far north as a helicopter could take us. then a further two-hour drive brought us to sendai, the closest city of the epicenter of friday's huge quake. and this. the muddied and shattered remains of homes and vehicles swept away by a tsunami that here reached around two miles inland, destroying just about everything in its path. one of the worst affected areas, this industrial and housing zone around the airport. >> this is the parking lot of the sendai flying school. now amid the wrecked cars sits this training aircraft, dumped here by the wave, set from the hangar over the back there. soldiers and rescue workers scoured the area from the ground and in the air. the authorities say they found 300 bodies in just one area close to here. we found desperate relatives
searching for missing family members. this couple looking for a sister. while others struggle to navigate around the neighborhood brutally reshaped by the force of nature. the grounds fallen by two feet after this man warned. you can't go that way? there's no power, no water, and what few shops remain open are being swamped. this couple searching for milk and diaper from their daughter. i saw the tsunami coming, her mole e mother told me. i grabbed my baby and fled. as we filmed, panic struck the neighborhood. emergency vehicles warning three blaring loudspeakers there's a tsunami coming, a tsunami, move to higher ground. we joined that exodus. thankfully the surging water didn't return. it was a false alarm. though that will be little comfort for this battered and traumatized city. sendai is a shell-shocked city
that's hardly functioning. although rescue and relief efforts are being stepped up, the challenges they face here are enormous. back to you. >> all right. we mou head back to tokyo and robert bizzell. it's been a couple of days since the quake and tsunami hit. give me a sense of what things are like in tokyo right now, and i have to say we spoke with a gentleman named david abraham earlier who we talked with yesterday as well, and he talked to me about 25 minutes or so after the second quake, the first major aftershock. his office sent him a note about a meeting on monday. i mean, talk about mentally getting back to normal very quickly or dealing or something. do you understand that? do you see evidence of a normal life right now in tokyo? >> well, tokyo is pretty quiet on a sunday, and it's very quiet
today. it's evening here right now. i think that one of the things they're thinking about is that tokyo is used to earthquake, and they felt this earthquake, but it didn't do much damage here. it's not as though these people are recovering from some severe trauma. there's a trauma of having loved ones and having a country that's having a lot of trouble only a few hundred miles to the north of here, but right in the city of tokyo itself, there's no reason for anybody to be panicking or upset about other than their connection to something bad happening in the rest of their country. so i think that if you see the movie "lost in translation" you get a good sense of what tokyo is like, and especially for those of us that are severely jet layinged. it seems very strange to start with, but then it doesn't seem to be particularly abnormal right now. >> let's talk about what certainly is abnormal, though, the issues that are happening with the nuclear power plants and potential partial meltdowns. i know meltdown is not a technical phrase. it's just indicative of what this would be like. talk about the concerns on that
front, robert. i mean, from a technical standpoint, and also just humanitarian. >> what happened was we had a bunch of reactors that were built in an area that's very earthquake-prone, and the earthquake that struck was five times more powerful of the earthquake that these plants were designed for, and i think a lot of people are going to be asking the question, how could that have happened? how could you design an -- a power plant -- a nuclear power plant in that area an earthquake five times that strong and then followed by a tsunami. what happened since that technically difficult to understand. the nuclear material has to be continually cooled off or it can cause a lot of problems. to cool it off after they first shut off the nuclear reaction, but it continues to stay hot just like the pot on your stove takes hot, electric stove, after
you turn it off. they have pumps to do that, and the pumps are electrical, so they start working and they have emergency back-up pumps and the pumps were swamped by the tsunamis. then they had batteries to go after that, and the batteries were swamped by the tsunamis. they ended up without a lot of water, and so this hot molten nuclear material starts to melt, and that is what the meltdown is, and it's not very hard to understand how that happened. now, what they are doing right now is pumping sea water into there with emergency pump that is they've gotten in there right from the ocean along with an element called boron which helps slow down the nuclear reactor even more. that means that these reactors are dead. they're never going to work again, and it's a race against time to see if they can cool it off before it melts down enough to get through the containers. so far it hasn't. there has been some radiation and as you said at the top of the show, some has shown up on a few people's clothing, but it hasn't been anything like
chernobyl, and it's staying that way, and if we keep our fingers crossed, it will stay that way and get cooler over the next few days as they manage to pump more sea water into it. it remains to be seen whether they can do that. it seems like they will, but we don't know for sure. >> we'll just have to watch and see what happens. bob, thanks for watching for us there from tokyo. we'll see you again soon. i'm joined by robert alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute for policy studies. robert, with a good morning for you, you heard what bob was saying there and that these nuclear reactors that are having the sea water pumped into them, that these are essentially dead. these are things that will never be used again. the question he posed was these were nuclear reactors that were being built in an earthquake-prone area. should that never have happened in the first place? >> well, i think the lesson that we're learning from this is that the designers and the decision
makers to who eventually constructed these reactors, never envisioned the reactors being hit by an earthquake of this size and tsunamis that were perhaps even more destructive. there are limits to our ability to have technologies with stand with nature. it's very straight forward. >> is it that straight forward, sir, to indicate that there should be limits to the extent that we rely on nuclear power and that we build these nuclear power plants because certainly in the united states i understand there are 104 such entities and we have certain pockets, california, the west coast, elsewhere, that are very highly filled with seismic activity, and there are nuclear power plants built there. is that not wise? >> i think we're going need to
really look at the scrutiny of those reactors that are in seismically active zones. these reactors are seeking a 20-year extension to their operating license, and i think this event in japan should give us serious pause as to whether we should grant those licenses at this time. >> are we already looking at long-term impacts even if there's no further radioactive release, or do you feel this is contained? >> well, i don't -- i don't think that we can confidently say everything is contained. we don't know how this is going
to unfold further. there is also the matter of the spent reactor fuel pools, which are not in a containment, which are several stories above ground, and they are next to the reactor tops that also have to have water circulating through them to keep them cool, and if for whatever reason the water were to boil off or to drain, then you have the risk of a very severe radiation fire occurring, and so the problem has not been, i think, resolved in any remote sense of the word. i think they're still in an ongoing struggle. i'm happy to hear that they're able to -- that the containment on the reactor has with stood the enormous heat and pressure from the core melt, and let's just keep our fingers crossed
because there are other things that are -- that we have to be concerned about, and i would start to focus in on not only the reactor cores, but also the spent fuel pools which are not under containment, and when i looked at the explosion, the footage of the explosion that occurred -- >> oh, yeah. >> -- i was concerned it might have blown off the roof for the spent fuel pool and the pool may be exposed to the open sky, so -- and i would also be concerned whether or not the explosion might have compromised the structural integrity of the pool, so you have to worry about that. these pools have tremendous amounts of radioactive material and then if the water starts to drain -- for example, this is something that will take perhaps several days to occur if it's uncontrolled.
it could be quite serious. mroo indeed, it could be, and essential that video was pretty shocking for everybody around this world to see. robert alvarez, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you. at airports nationwide this weekend many americans are breathing a sigh of relief as their family and friends return from japan. many passengers say the experience was terrifying, but they were not aware of the scope and magnitude of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami. >> i've never persons experienced such an out of feeling control in my life where everything around you is moving, and you don't know what's happening. >> it was a big one. lasted for about three minutes, and we didn't think it was that bad until we started going to the stores and looking at the tvs of how bad it was. >> three minutes is an awfully long time for that kind of shaking. the state department is advising americans to avoid nonsteshl travel to japan. crescent city, northern california was hit especially hard, and dozens of boats were lost or damaged when the eight foot wave rushed ashore. about 80% of the docks were
destroyed, and officials say the financial toll will jump well above $10 million. the sudden surge of water also struck the other end of the state. south of san diego. the worst damage happened early yesterday when a second tsunami moved through mission bay. of course, the dock was crushed, and the 100,000 pound barge broke free. heading back out to the coast to santa cruz, the waves caused up to 20 boats to sink. governor jerry brown issued an emergency declaration and dozens of houseboats were damaged, and many lived in full-time around the year. among the incredible pictures we are seeing at the moment, the tsunami hit the coast of japan. is there potential for more large scale quakes in the immediate future? we'll show you some remarkable before and after aerial pictures of several japanese towns and the difference is stunning. keep it here on msnbc sunday. announcer: wherever the game takes you, transitions is your best playing partner. transitions lenses adapt to changing light to help you stay comfortable and in the zone
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let's take a look at sendai before. that is sendai after the tsunami wave struck there just obliterating that town. once again, that's what it looked like before. very populated. pretty densely built up along the coast, and once again, after that tsunami wave hits, nothing but mud. it's unrecognizable there. pretty extraordinary picture being provided to us in the "new york times" website posted for us. they're pretty incredible to bring to you. meantime, japanese official advisory now raised the magnitude of friday's earthquake to a 9.0. that is still the strongest on record to ever hit japan, and the size and scope of the quake have raised a lot of questions about how much advanced notice can be given before such a catastrophic event. for more on this, i'm joined live by john rudle, university of california at davis. he joins me in sacramento. good morning to you.
>> good morning. >> we're going to be running, as you and i talk, this amateur video that's coming to msnbc this morning. it's about three minutes or so of tape as the tsunami is striking. so the first question -- i'm presuming it's a no, but is there anything that can be done to prevent a tsunami from wreaking this kind of devastation? i mean, when you look at the sheer magnitude of it, you think how could there be, but is there? >> well, realistically no. you know, you can build sea walls similar to what is done to prevent -- or to mitigate hurricane storm surges, but there isn't a way that you're going to stop a massive force of nature like that. that's -- the pictures that we saw on thursday evening were just incredible. i have never seen anything like that except something approaching that many movies in hollywood. >> oh, yeah. >> there's just no way. >> are you able to see the video that we're putting on our air right now, which is new into us. >> no. >> unfortunately. when you get a look at it, you
will know you have seen, it john, because it came into us this morning, and it is brought by amateur videografrs who were standing clearly on higher ground just watching as everything was being swept away around them. you know, it is absolutely incredible. when you look at this and you look at the need to be able to predict earthquaked, to predict at least that a tsunami is coming, which could get people running for higher ground with enough time, how well advanced are we in being able to do that accurately? >> well, we can actually do a pretty good job of forecasting or predicting tsunami inunaddition once the earthquake has occurred. that can actually be done pretty accurately now and pretty rapidly. probably not within 15 minutes that it took for the tsunami to get from the source region to the coast, but, for example, the tsunamis in hawaii and california, some farther away, those are -- those are, you know -- those are much easier to
do. in terms of earthquake prediction, we've actually tried to do precise earthquake prediction. it doesn't look like that's possible in the near term, but we can do earthquake forecasting, i think, pretty well. that is to say chances of earthquake, and we're getting a lot better at that. we have a website that will be do forecasting on, and we're about to improve it fairly dramatically with some forecasting technology. this i've written a series of blog on there that is a technique that does a good job of estimating the chance of an earthquake for now major cities in california. >> we all want to know what they are. tell me what information you have. >> well, you can go look at the website, but basically the four cities are san francisco, sacramento, san diego, and los angeles. roughly speaking, there's about a 10% chance of a magnitude 7
earthquake of 150 miles of those cities in the next year. you know, that's not atypical. i mean, we've had earthquakes that size near all those cities. most recently near san diego. we had the earthquake on easter sunday last year, and we actually are pretty worried about the one in northern california which has a series of magnitude p earthquakes roughly the last 170 years. the last one about 100 years away from that one. >> when there is an earthquake like this, does it do anything to let off steam, let off pressure, or does it just indicate something even greater may be coming, or can it be both? >> well, for something like this japan earthquake, that's probably the biggest one you're going to see. we just don't see earthquake that is big very often. i will say that we've had five kwaibs with a magnitude 8.5 in
the last seven years, and that's highly unusual historically. >> why is it happening some. >> well, what i'm particularly worried about actually is tokyo because if you look at the aftershock vibration following that earthquake, they're sort of marching down towards tokyo, and that would lead us to expect that there may be triggered activity, major activity much nearer to tokyo. >> okay. and certainly i'm sure that people are appreciative of that sort of forecast, but, john, why is this happening? why are we having these seven major earthquakes of tremendous magnitude? what's happening to the earth? >> well, we don't really know. that's a very interesting question. i mean, if you had asked most seismologists ten years ago could this happen, they would say probably not. the fact that it has happened raises a question that maybe these events are all correlated or somehow related in space and time. maybe it could be, as don anderson said of cal tech, something called accelerated
plate techtonics, and maybe we're in a period where pacific plates have decided to make a major lurch forward, so to speak, causing many of these major earthquakes to occur around the rim. >> something i know you have certainly will be studying there as a geology professor at uc davis. >> we are. >> more on the potential nuclear crisis in japan. how serious is it, and how much worse could it get? by the sea powered by the wind on the plains. there's a hospital where technology has a healing touch. there's a factory giving old industries new life. and there's a train that got a whole city moving again. somewhere in america, the toughest questions are answered every day. because somewhere in america, more than sixty thousand people spend every day answering them. siemens. answers.
japan's foreign minister says it's facing its worst crisis since world war ii. request the earthquake and following tsunami and a looming crisis they are trying to assess the full scale of the damage. we are speaking to the author much catastrophes. good morning again, don. >> good morning. >> so we have the japanese who famously put a high priority on
disaster preparedness. how much do you think in this case their preparation helped them with the earthquake and the tsunami that followed? >> well, it sounds from what i read and heard that it's been very effective as much as they could have been. most of the cities outside of the immediately affected region like sendai did pretty well as you heard from your coverage from tokyo, and you are used to those almost all the time. there isn't much can you do to prepare against the sides of the earthquake or the sees of the tsunami that sendai experienced. month construction on earth can resist forces like that. >> yeah, but are you reading the building codes there in japan? i'm sure you've seen the video, which is quite incredible to see of tall skyscrapers in tokyo swaying. i mean, you know, there's something about you know it's right. you know it's what it's supposed to do, but at the same time you know it is concrete, steel, and something you usually is immobile that's moving to a great degree. >> that's exactly what you want to do with a tall building. you want it to actually swing a little bit and flex a bit so
that the energy waves pass through it without shattering it. if the building is rigid, that's when it tends to fall apart, and that's what has happened to a lot of older buildings. >> i want to ask you about how we fair in the u.s. you always talk about retro fitting. how well are we doing with earthquake preparedness in w our structures? >> the region in the u.s. here in california the code is very strict because we have these. ever since the long beach quake, the codes have been very strict about it. we could be better. we could be, you know, on codes at the japan level. we just don't experience earthquakes as often as they do. nor do we take them as seriously. i really think we should be taking it more seriously. we really should be spending the money to save lives now rather than lose them later. >> that is a sentiment being ebbing quoed by experts with
whom i've spoken for the last 24 to 48 hours. i think people will take it seriously. don, thank you so much. >> thank you very much. >> is the scariest earthquake yet to come? well, that's the subject of a new news week daily beast article. how the quake many and tsunami in japan are not isolated events and what it means for us here in the u.s. at lendingtree.com. plus, get the best deal or we'll pay you $1,000. call lending tree at... today. when you're a stunt woman, work can be pretty unpredictable. from knowing when my next job will be to what i'll actually be doing. so in the rest of my life i like control. especially in my finances. that's why i have slate with blueprint. i can make a plan to pay off everyday things and avoid interest, or pay down my balance faster on the big stuff. that saves money. with slate from chase, i have everything under control... ♪ ...financially. announcer: debit card control and credit card flexibility. get both with slate.
welcome wack to msnbc sunday. i'm alex witt with new word from a japanese ambassador word to the jaits united states on "meet the press." chuck todd asked about the possibility of a nuclear meltdown. >> it is true that part of fuel rod may have been deformed or melting, but it is not the situation where the core reactor, substantial part of reactor, is melting down, and it is far from what you call the
total symptom of melting down. we are trying to avoid that. we have to take quick action. we have to take the most prepared conscious attitude, and also we have to mobile ease all our forces in meeting with these great challenge that we're facing. >> well, what about the question of nuclear power here at home? chuck todd asked new york senator chuck schumer on "meet the press." we'll bring you that following our extended live coverage today. on the minds of the japanese people and the nuclear scientists around the world, will the crippled reactors undergo a complete meltdown? fifs are right now pumping sea water into at least one of the failing reactors. nbc's ann thompson is in london with more on this. ann, good morning. >> good morning, alex. this morning for the first time japanese officials are talking about possible meltdowns at two
reactors the fukushima one plant. they say they are trying desperately to prevent disaster. the primary concern today is the reactor in unit three, the cooling system in that unit that was working, and then it suddenly stopped yesterday. to relieve the pressure in the reactor, the utility company opened a valve to release some radioactive vapor. that vapor goes into the containment building surrounding the reactor. that vapor contains hydrogen and the fear is if there is another build-up of hydrogen, there will be a repeat of what happened yesterday at the reactor of unit one. that explosion blew off the roof and consumed the walls of the containment building surrounding unit one. officials say the reactor, which is enveloped in steel, is not damaged, but fear reverb rated throughout japan. the government expanded the evacuation zone and began screening evacuees for radiation contamination. nine people were treated for radiation exposure. to try and prevent a meltdown in
unit one, authorities flooded that reactor with sea water and, in fact, writing off any future use of the already 40-year-old reactor. apparently deciding it was better to lose the reactor than risk nuclear disaster if they tried to save it. alex. >> understandably so. okay. thank you, ann. if it can happen in japan, what about our coastlines here at home? that is the question tackled in the new edition of "news week magazine." it says the tsunami that struck japan was the latest in a series of eththat is now puts california at risk. let's bring in simon winchester, contributor for news week and the daily beast and the author of that story. simon, good morning. >> good morning. sfoo what is the take-away in terms of how much the west coast is exposed? >> well, it's an unassailable fact that within the last seven years there have been a cluster of extremely large earthquakes around the pacific plate, which if this works, i don't know if the pacific plate is what you can see here.
weave had big ones on the west coast -- the northwest -- the japanese one the other day. new zealand on the 22nd of february. chile last year, down in the other corner, and the one missing component is what's happening in the northeast at the pacific plate, and there there are two very, very dangerous faults that haven't given way for a very long time. the first is the very familiar one. the san andreas fault that underlies san francisco which ruptured in 1906 105 years ago, and an even more dangerous one to the north off vancouver called the cascadeia fault that ruptured 400 years ago. given that fact, there had been very recent and very large ruptures in the northwest, the southwest, and the southeast. it seems to stand to reason statistically that the northeast, and by that i mean the american west. i think the california and
british columbia should be really well aware of what they're sitting on top of at least statistically. historically they know very well, but the statistics are at the moment running against them. after this research -- thank you for putting your computer graphic there because we did get a sense of that. are you left with a sense of helplessness, or does this motivate you to think we can do something? if so, what is it that we can do? >> well, we're a big city. we can do what the japanese have done so brilliantly in tokyo, and one of your early contributeors are talking about downtown sendai as well. the buildings are earthquake -- very good at dealing with large earthquakes, although an 8.9 will trump almost everything. the buildings in san francisco are better than they used to be. buildings in vancouver are not particularly well protected and nor those in seattle. what we can do generally
speaking in areas that are liable to earthquakes we can increase highway codes. you remember the dramatic pictures from the kobe earthquake and similarly when the harbor freeway in san francisco collapsed and pancaked on other cars, those sorts of things should never be built in earthquake sensitive areas. to ring another bell of alarm, the most powerful earthquake in the united states ever was in the very center of the united states, a new place called new madrid, missouri, in 1811. there were no cities then, of course. the earthquake was so huge, in effect, it -- church towers came -- they were the tallest buildings in boston and charleston. were merely 2,000 miles away. there's cincinnati, st. louis, and memphis all within reach of this huge very dangerous fault in new madrid. fema is taking an interest, thank heavens, but preparedness is the word. japan is very prepared society. america still isn't. >> i think, seemon, you
mentioned memphis. memphis is not a place that i think of as having tremendous seismic activity and that would put retro fitting buildings front and from on their agenda there. is that a concern? you're talking about something that happened 200 years ago or so. you know, it's going to be out of people's minds. >> well, you are absolutely right. the mayors of those cities, st. louis, cincinnati, memphis, have been remarkably -- until someone came up with a report -- i think it was, in fact, fema who said, look, the new madrid fault zone is extremely dangerous and while it may not happen -- we're talking the concept of geological time is one that people still don't really grapple with. it may happen tomorrow. it may happen in 500 year's time, but the statistics suggest that new madrid probably within the next century. oakland, california, within the next quarter century. the cascadia fault even sooner than that possibly. no matter the time scale, we
have to start preparing, and that means teaching children to do the kind of drills that they do in japan and korea so seriously, and just there's a public awareness of the danger of these earthquakes, and that's why an event like this is, to use the phrase at the moment, a teaching moment. it reminds people of the awesome power of this planet and can why we have -- we can't avoid these things, and we can't really predict them, but we can prepare for them. >> yeah. you know, simon, this has been a great interview to the point that we weren't able to touchdown on the tsunami situation because of time. i'm going to have my producers contact you and see if we can have you come back in our next hour as well, because there's a lot more to discuss here, and i'm enjoying doing so with you. simon beenchester, thank you. >> thank you. the effort to find quake and tsunami victims is shaping up to be a heart-breaking task for the people of japan. even as survivors checklists of names and await news of loved ones. thousands remain missing. many are feared dead. the task of tracking down family members is no less daunting or heart breaking in this country.
doug is the president of the japan-america society in southern california, and he joins me to talk about some of the stories that he is hearing. i think it's one of those situations have you to brace yourself because this story has hit very close to home for you even, hasn't it? >> yes, it has. my wife is japanese, and her dear friend who lives in new york is japanese, and has been able to contact her mother, but not the rest of her family in sendai. >> in sendai. we've been hearing stories of that. we heard a heart-breaking tale about a parents whose son was going over and doing some teaching and volunteering with japanese young people, and it literally broke my heart to hear them say they've not reached him, but they knew that whatever he was doing, he was looking after those children. you know, it's just hard to even contemplate. how about phone calls you've been receiving since this quake? what are you hearing? >> we're hearing lots of folks that are doing their best to reach out to find their loved ones.
we're working with the national association of japan-america societies, which is a networking organization for all 37 japan-america societies in north america to work with our counterparts in japan, the america-japan societies, of which there's 24, including up north. through that network, we hope to help folks. we're also referring people to the local consulate generals of japan as well as the japanese embassy in washington d.c. for americans searching for american citizens hoping to contact them, we recommend that they contact the state department. >> but, doug, you have to feel a little bit like your hands are tied because given the vast destruction there, communication technology has been also wiped out. i mean, how frustrating is it? >> it's terribly frustrating. i mean, it's almost incomprehensible. you watch the images on tv, particularly ones you were showing just a few minutes ago,
and in this day and age we're used to instant communication, and that is nott happening. you know, lots of people have been able to find loved ones or friends through twitter, facebook. i have personally found about ten friends up north through facebook. it has been frustrating because you just don't hear anything and it's not just -- this is being played out all around the world with friends that have friends or loved ones in japan. >> i was going to say in terms of the numbers and you talk about people around the world and so many. we know at least 200,000 people were evacuated from 200 mile radius from the nuclear power plant. how many calls have been been fielding? >> our office has been inundated starting actually from midnight thursday and through even yesterday. we have staff in the office right now fielding calls, and one of the alarming stories of this is the outpouring of
support from americans. we have folks -- we had a call from idaho and another one from long beach. people offering their homes to folks that have lost their homes in japan. now, that's really not practical, but people in america really just want to reach out and help the folks in japan that are in this terrible crisis. >> yeah. well, that's a very heart-warming thing to hear, and i huh for sharing that with us. doug, best of luck with all your efforts and helping to connect people together and we love to hear later about how well you're being able to do that. thank you so much. >> thank you, alex. the concerns in the u.s. about the nuclear reactors here. why we may not have as much of a reason to worry. we'll explain all that coming up on msnbc sunday. at legalzoom we'll help you incorporate your business, file a patent, make a will and more. you can complete our online questions in minutes. then we'll prepare your legal documents and deliver them directly to you.
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police have found as many as 300 bodies on the beaches near sendai. rescuers are still working to assess all the damage there, and they are still searching through rubble for any survivors. the nuclear industry is anxiously watching the events unfolding in japan. one of the reactors that may be undergoing a partial meltdown right now is nearly 40 years old. official advisory flooded it with sea water in a desperate attempt to prevent a full meltdown. here with me now is washington post staff writer joel achenbach. >> good morning, alex. s. >> i want to read from your article. someone related this to the bp oil disaster. it roads, "the problem with the bp event is that they didn't have a plan b, said alex marion, vice president of nuclear operations for the nuclear energy institute. "we have, i would say, sufficient defense in depth. we have plan b, c, d, and possibly e." now, japan appears on the brink of nuclear disaster. were those safeguards in place? >> japan has very robust engineering and amazing
technology and they were also anticipating, you know, a maj major -- from an american energy -- nuclear energy lobbyist. he is arguing in the u.s. we have all these redid you understand answeries to keep our nuclear power plants safe. i would just say that although there is an amazing engineering that goes into the plants, i would be skeptical of any statement that says it couldn't happen here or we've got this totally figured out or this is completely safe, because as we saw with the bp oil spill, that's an advanced technology there too, and it extent went boom, and you had 87 days of an oil spill. in japan great engineering and the violence of the earth
defeated their best efforts, and now they have a crisis. >> how about if we look at the state of nuclear reactors in america, of which we have 104 in total. let's look at the west coast, for instance. we have earthquakes there typically. what about a devastating earthquake or tsunami that is triggered there? are there legitimate concerns about their safety? >> well, the interesting point that simon winchester made just a few minutes ago on your program, he talked about the ring of fire and the fact that you could have a major event with the cascadias conduction zone. could you have an event on the san andreas fault. a place like the diablo plant, those plants are built with the notion that you could have ground motion that would be really extreme. the question is what about the east coast of the united states. now, you know, you and i don't think of the east coast as earthquake country, but it does
have earthquakes sometimes. i mean, charleston, south carolina, had a quake in the 1800s. simon winchester mentioned the new madrid fault in the middle of the country, and i believe that fema this year is doing a whole exercise on what would happen if in a major new madrid earthquake in the center of the country? if you wanted to be paranoid, i think you would worry about boston or nooshg city or place like that where you have a lot of old masonry buildings that are not built for earthquakes at all. even if you didn't have a category eight, you probably wouldn't have one that big, but you would still have a lot of damage if you had a big earthquake. the question is how good are our hazard maps for knowing where seismic violence might take place? >> do you have an answer to that? >>. >> i have an answer. i don't think they're as good as the authorities say they are. as a reporter, i'm willing to be
persuaded otherwise, but my research indicates that there has been a little over-confidence in the ability to constrain the statistics. i think the whole issue of earthquake prediction -- no one says you can predict an earthquake. there's going to be an earthquake in five days. no one says you can do that, but we do have map that is show -- well, there's a certain percentage chance of a major quake on this fault in the next 30 years. i think the earth has more surprises in store for us than those maps would indicate. >> hmm. great article, great interview. thank you so much for your time. >> thanks, alex. the long wait in new jersey for the floodwaters to recede here on msnbc sunday. ♪ 100 ways to enjoy pringles. ♪ ♪
in a week. the torrential downpours dumps four inches of rain and washed out dozens of homes. many were forced to evacuate while others were left stranded in knee deep water. eric fisher live many little hills, emergency new jersey. let's see if any abatement? no. those falls are still churning the water. >> those falls are going to look leak that for some time to come. are you looking behind me here, and this is river, and boy has mother nature really put it on us with water. how much video very we seen of the awesome power of water working downstream. downstream where we are is actually north over to patterson, new jersey. they have seen flooding and in some neighborhoods as well. here in little falls, it's going to to stay at major flood stage until tuesday. a lot of people living along the river upstream, they're going to have to stay out of their homes for another one to two days. we dry wr mrt forecast until wednesday. there will be a chance for the water to come down and we're going to tour the area with teama.
i'm afraid a lot of these folks will need assistance from fema in the future. >> thanks for the heads-up on that. >> we'll have incredible pecks we're seeing from the devastating quake and tsunami in japan. it flows with clean water. it makes its skyline greener and its population healthier. all to become the kind of city people want to live and work in. somewhere in america, we've already answered some of the nation's toughest questions. and the over sixty thousand people of siemens are ready to do it again. siemens. answers.
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